Walk a mile in my shoes

Our team at Sentry Protection Products is headed to Chicago next week for the 2017 ProMat Show – the leading event of its kind bringing together solution providers with buyers in the manufacturing and supply chain industry from all over the world.  Current information states that the show includes 950 exhibits and 375,000 square feet spanning two floors of the McCormick Center. That’s a lot of miles to walk, people to see and things to do.

Trades shows are all about the experience – the whole experience; the good and the not-so-good. First, the good. There’s something to be said for the “up close and personal” interaction at a trade show.  In these days of instant, wireless, and other seemingly impersonal communications, face-to-face conversation is almost a novelty. Looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand makes the connection stronger; a name with a face; and that makes it more real – at least it does to me. All the stories, the anecdotes, making new acquaintances and renewing old ones, the product pitches, the elaborate displays and demonstrations can’t be replicated in an email.

Trade shows aren’t easy. Long hours standing in the booth or walking the show; early morning meetings; lack of sleep; eating at all hours or not eating at all; fast food over healthy food; delayed flights; and packages not arriving when planned are all part of the not-so-good side of the coin.

In my opinion, the good stuff outweighs the not-so-good stuff. Why? The experience. The people I meet, the knowledge I take away will now be part of me; something that will better me as a professional and as a person. Looking forward to it.

If you are attending ProMat 2017, stop by Booth S1157 and say hello. The Sentry Team would love to meet you. It will be an experience.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Asking the right questions? How about asking the right people?

Here’s something to think about. When you decide a new policy, set guidelines or formulate new rules do you ever look for input from the people who are directly affected by those decisions, follow those guidelines or enforce those rules? If you don’t, you are missing out on valuable information.

I was reading through the latest edition of DC
Velocity magazine and came across an article titled, “What your forklift drivers want you to know.” Raymond Handling Concepts, a Pacific Northwest dealer of material handling equipment and systems, took the time to ask forklift operators what was important to them. Their responses indicated how important safety is to them; the pride they take in their work and the importance of adhering to high standards; their appreciation for new equipment; the significance of forklifts and rack systems being compatible; and their concerns about poor lighting reducing productivity leading to accidents. Now you might say, “Of course. That makes total sense.” Yes, it does. The point is that we have that information because someone asked; not just anyone, but the people directly involved.

It’s one thing to ask, it’s another to listen. The people who work in the trenches, those on the front line of operations each day, are the ones who can make a difference. Let me give you another example. A while back, I was involved in creating a communications campaign for a hospital opening a new emergency room facility. Before actual construction, a mock version of the room was created and employees at every level of the organization could walk through and provide feedback as it related to their jobs. The exercise was invaluable. Everyone from upper management, to physicians and nurses, to housekeeping and dietary had a chance to look at it from their perspective and how it would affect them carrying out their daily duties. Not only did employees feel like they were heard, they were now totally invested in the project and became the best ambassadors for its success. Wow. Seems like a simple thing to do, So, why is it too often overlooked?

Good decisions, guidelines for success and rules of the day aren’t created in a vacuum – at least they shouldn’t be. If you want the real story, just ask the right people.

Posted by MJ Thomas

May the wind always be at your back!

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day; a day of celebration, good food and drink, parades and merriment around the world. What started as a religious feast day for the patron Saint of Ireland, has become a day of partying; a day where everyone is a “little bit Irish.”

How much do you really know about St. Patrick’s Day? The facts, the myths, the traditions. I did a little research and thought I would share a few interesting facts.

St. Patrick was not Irish! He was from Wales. At 16, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave. At some point he escaped and it was only later in life that he returned to Ireland as a missionary. And guess what? The “wearing of the green” could’ve been the wearing of the blue. The color was originally linked to St. Patrick. Green only came into the picture after it was linked to the Irish Independence movement. One legend suggests that revelers thought wearing green would make a person invisible to leprechauns who would “pinch” those not wearing green. Good luck with that. Oh, and by the way, did you know it takes 40 pounds of green dye to color the Chicago River for a few hours?

Corned beef and cabbage? Originally it was more like Irish bacon and potatoes. Irish immigrants to America found the cost of the bacon and potatoes prohibitive. Corned beef and cabbage was a more affordable option.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade happened in New York City in 1766. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Irish government decided to start holding a parade in Dublin to promote tourism. And the tradition of drinking green beer? That didn’t come from Ireland either. Thanks to the United States and Canada for that one. In fact, until the late 1970’s, pubs in Ireland were not permitted to be open on St. Patrick’s Day. Guinness Irish stout is considered the drink of the day on St. Patty’s Day and is it estimated that three million pints are downed on the day. A 2012 estimate figured that about $245 million is spent on beer for St. Patrick’s Day.

That brings me to the real point for today. Be safe. Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is great; have fun, revel in the day’s activities but do it safely and responsibly. It’s better for everyone that way.

I leave you with this thought – “As you slide down the bannister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction.”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted by MJ Thomas

Ready to spring forward?

That Ben Franklin – what a kidder. In 1784, in a moment of whimsy, old Ben penned a letter, An Economical Project, to the Journal of Paris suggesting that candle usage could be economized by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning; thus, making a case for the thrift of natural light versus artificial light – a concept that some think planted the seeds for what we now know as Daylight Saving Time. Guess what? Ben was joking! Mr. “Early to bed early to rise,” never meant for the idea to be taken seriously.
So, this weekend, Sunday, March 12 to be exact, we turn our clocks ahead an hour; springing forward for Daylight Saving Time. Some people just can’t take a joke.

The real history of Daylight Saving Time – who created it, when it went in to effect, why not everyone uses it, etc., etc. – is too long for this discourse. Suffice it to say that DST does not exist without controversy. There are many reasons to keep it and just as many to get rid of it.

The real question is how does it affect our daily lives? First, it messes with our internal clocks, we lose an hour of sleep and the amount of sleep we get can change our metabolism, affect our eating habits, tamper with our heart health, make us more accident prone, less productive and a little moodier.

Proponents of DST, say it saves energy, boosts tourism and encourages more people to exercise outdoors. In fact, in the 1980s, the golf industry estimated that one extra month of DST could generate up to $400 million a year in extra sales and fees. Woo-hoo.

Daylight Saving Time was created to cut energy costs. After all, if work hours were more in the daylight hours, money could be saved on electricity, but evidence is not conclusive that Daylight Saving Time leads to energy conservation.

All I know is that I am losing an hour of sleep this weekend and I’m not laughing.

Thanks, Ben.

Posted by MJ Thomas

Are we having fun yet?

We’ve all pretty much heard that at one time or another. Well, are we? And why is that important? Because if we are talking about fun at work, it can increase productivity, improve customer service and boost creativity and innovation. It’s also been shown to lower absenteeism, provide greater job satisfaction and increase employee loyalty.

Hard to believe that a little bit of fun could impact a company’s success but data from the Great Place to work Institute shows that “great” companies earn significantly higher marks for “fun.”

Granted every day can’t always be fun and games. That’s pretty much a given. But even in the most formal or serious environment, at some point there are opportunities for employees to lighten up and find some levity during the working day.

Having fun at work has additional benefits including improving teamwork, building trust and increasing employee retention. It’s especially good at relieving stress.

It’s a stressful time at work right now – good stress, but stress nonetheless. The only thing that keeps things going is the ability to laugh amongst ourselves, find humor in the small things and keep it in perspective. When something goes amiss and isn’t all that funny, the team comes together and we work it out. We love it when a plan comes together.

In the words of beloved author Dr, Seuss, who would have turned 113 years old yesterday, “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

Keep coming back.

Posted by MJ Thomas